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SOUL challenging Government racism at the UN

SOUL challenging Government racism at the UN

New Zealand’s reputation is on the line. SOUL, the mana whenua-led campaign working to protect confiscated Māori land at Ihumātao from commercial development, is meeting with the United Nations in Geneva, tomorrow (August 14, 10am-1pm, CEST) in a bid to pressure the Government to support an alternative future for the land.

SOUL Representatives Pania Newton and Delwyne Roberts will spend three hours with members of the Committee on the Elimination of Racism and Discrimination (CERD) to explain the case against Special Housing Area 62 at Ihumātao near Mangere in Auckland.

“I am excited by the opportunity to speak with this Committee and highlight the debacle at Ihumātao which represents a monumental failure of democracy,” says Pania Newton.

“It is unacceptable that the New Zealand Government is refusing to front up to the injustices at Ihumātao and in the 21st century continues to pass racially discriminatory laws in Aotearoa,” she says.

SOUL is particularly aggrieved by the Crown’s strong support for the profit-driven efforts of transnational corporation Fletcher Residential Limited (FRL) to build 480 high-priced houses on confiscated land using the draconian provisions of the Special Housing Area Act.

Delwyne Roberts adds, "It is deeply disappointing that the Government has not listened to the people, despite every effort to be heard. We have no choice but to try to reach them through the UN.”

The Crown is a signatory to CERD Convention and this year it reports to the Committee about progress on eliminating racism in this country on August 15th and 16th in Geneva. The Crown faces examination of its record on the basis of reports from SOUL and other New Zealand NGOs. SOUL is working actively with a coalition of some 20 parties led by Heather Came, that are challenging the record of the Crown on a range of issues around health, wellbeing and justice, against the provisions of CERD.

In particular SOUL argues that both the original confiscation and the secretive, non-consultative processes of the SHA Act, that shut interested parties out of the consenting hearings, breach multiple provisions of the CERD Convention. The SHA was engineered to fast track housing developments at the expense of proper consultation. Mana whenua at Ihumātao, with over 800 years of occupation on the land, had no say in the process.

The CERD Convention as interpreted by the Committee in General Recommendation 23, which refers specifically to the rights of indigenous peoples, via paragraphs 3, 4 and 5, requires signatories to provide for indigenous economic sustainability, return lands unfairly taken and provision of fair compensation if this is no longer possible.

In addition, SOUL argues that the Crown is in breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which is often drawn upon in such cases at the UN. Under Article 27 there is a requirement that mana whenua have rights to use and enjoy their ancestral lands and to be consulted with in respect of developments that may impact on such lands or sacred sites.

Immediate action by the Government is needed to address these international breaches and restore its reputation.

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